Our first sharing in the new life of Jesus’ dying and rising takes place through Baptism. For each of us, Baptism is our personal sharing in the Paschal Mystery, where we pass from death to life and are made anew in the image of our Redeemer (see Romans 6:3-11).
In Baptism, we are “incorporated” into Christ – literally, made a part of his Body, which is the Church, the continuation of the Incarnation throughout space and time.
The Eucharist is then both a sign of the unity of the people of God and truly brings it about. The bread and wine we use, in commemoration of the Last Supper, are themselves signs of both nourishment and unity: many grains of wheat and many grapes go to form this “one bread and one cup.” As we are each united to the Lord in his Body, we are also united to one another through this Holy Communion. This unity is the eternal plan of God the Father, realized through the saving work of his Son, united in love by the grace of the Holy Spirit. In Holy Communion, the life of God grows within us, and so we are renewed in the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity” (see Galatians 5:22-23). Among the effects of the Eucharist:
1) Growth in Virtue: the reception of the Eucharist makes us grow in faith, hope and charity; and in particular, charity. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Love. The perfect love of Jesus was shown in His saving self-sacrifice on the Cross. He offered His life to bring salvation and mercy to all. Thus, in sharing in the life of our Savior, we grow in charity, the selfless love that wills the good of another person as if it were our own. Charity is the love meant when Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
2) Called to Service: Sharing in the Eucharist gives us both the reason and the means for serving our brothers and sisters in need, for fulfilling our vocations in life, and for living inholiness and goodness. With the Christ-life strengthened within us, we are to strive to imitate him as closely as possible in our daily living, including service to the poor and needy. This communal dimension of the Eucharist is a vital part of its meaning. Pope John Paul pointed this out in a striking passage in Mane Nobiscum Domine (n. 28):
We cannot delude ourselves: by our mutual love and, in particular, by our concern for those in need we will be recognized as true followers of Christ (cf. Jn 13:35; Mt 25:31-46). This will be the criterion by which the authenticity of our Eucharistic celebrations is judged.
Similarly, Pope Benedict stated in his homily for Corpus Christi in 2011: Those who recognize Jesus in the sacred Host, recognize him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.
3) Unity in Diversity: The virtue of charity establishes a relationship of unity in love. Because the Eucharist recalls and makes present to us the most perfect act of charity, the Eucharist is ultimately directed towards unity. After St. Paul has discussed the institution of the Eucharist in I Corinthians, he reminds the Christian community in Corinth: “The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body; and so it is with Christ” (I Corinthians 12:12). To the Christians in Rome, Paul wrote: “Just as each of us has one body withmany members, and not all the members have the same function, so too we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:4-5).
Although we have diverse gifts and different roles in the life of the Church, we are brought together in the one Spirit of Christ to build up his Body on earth as we offer our gifts and fulfill our roles for the common good of the Church and of the human family.